Following the success of its “Dungeons & Dragons” ongoing series and miniseries set in distinct “D&D” campaign settings, IDW Publishing uses its upcoming “Infestation 2” crossover event to introduce readers to yet another fantasy world. Paul Crilley, the novelist behind several “Dungeons & Dragons: Eberron” novels, brings his popular noir hero Abraxis Wren to comics for the two-issue “Infestation 2: Dungeons & Dragons,” shipping biweekly in February with art by Valerio Schiti. The series, like the Wren series of novels, blends fantasy and detective drama while also incorporating the threat of H.P. Lovecraft’s Elder Gods as they infest IDW’s many licensed universes.
CBR News spoke with Crilley about “Infestation 2: Dungeons & Dragons,” which is IDW’s first series to take place within the “Eberron” campaign setting and Crilley’s first full-length comics work.
CBR News: Paul, you’ve written novels in the Eberron campaign setting, so you’re quite familiar with this world. What do find most appealing about Eberron, either on its own merits or in comparison with other “D&D” campaigns?
Paul Crilley: I like Eberron because you’re not just tied down to the fantasy genre. Don’t get me wrong, I love fantasy, but with Eberron you get to play in this huge sand pit where you can throw all these different genres together. You can have traditional fantasy taking place alongside a thriller or an espionage tale. A pulp, Indiana Jones-style adventure next to a James Bond spy series. For instance, my first Eberron book, “Night of the Long Shadows,” was heavily inspired by Dashiell Hammett, Elmore Leonard and Arthur Conan Doyle, and the latest Eberron book, Marcy Rockwell’s “The Shard Axe,” is sort of fantasy noir with touches of thriller. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with fantasy on its own. There’s not. It’s just great to get a chance to mix it up a bit.
This miniseries is launching as a tie-in to IDW’s “Infestation 2” crossover event. How do you work the Lovecraftian invasion into the world of Eberron?
Pretty easily, as it happens. Cthulhu was actually a monster featured in the 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rule-set. Plus, the fact that the Old Ones are multidimensional beings means that they can turn up anywhere without the reader being jarred too much.
What can you tell us about the story you’re telling here? Who are the characters, where does the action take place, and how does the Infestation come in?
The characters in my two issues are Abraxis Wren and his business partner, Torin (a dwarf). Wren is Eberron’s equivelant of a detective. Sort of a cross between Sherlock Holmes and a 1940s private investigator. Torin is his long-suffering sidekick. They both live and operate in Sharn, which is a huge magical city with flying skycars and buildings that soar miles into the sky. The story itself is a mystery action-adventure. Wren is hired by the sister of a patient who has gone missing from an insane asylum. When Wren starts investigating his disappearance, he stumbles into a much bigger plot and he and Torin have to stop an Old One from breaking through into their world.
This is IDW’s first “Eberron” comic since acquiring the “D&D” license. As such, do you feel you’re laying groundwork for future comic stories in this world?
I really do hope this lays the groundwork for future projects. I’m actually writing a second Wren and Torin adventure, independent of the “Infestation” storyline. It will be a 40-page annual. And if the characters are popular enough, who knows. I’d certainly love to keep writing them.
You could even have multiple “Eberron” series running concurrently. “Eberrron: Noir,” focusing on detective stories. “Eberron: Swords and Sorcery,” where you can focus on the more traditional fantasy aspects of the world. “Eberron: Espionage,” that can feature characters like Thorn from Keith Baker’s Thorn of Breland spy thrillers, or Sabira d’Deneith from Marcy Rockwell’s “Eberron Unlimited” series. That probably wouldn’t happen in the current climate, but the potential is definitely there.
You’ve written some short comics for UK magazines, but I believe this is your first miniseries. Was there any sort of learning curve in writing an “Eberron” story for comics?
The work I’ve done in Britain has been for the small press, comics like “Zarjaz” and “Futurequake,” that are based on the brilliant weekly anthology comic “2000AD.” But those stories were all 5 or 6 pages long, so being allowed 44 pages to tell a story was actually quite freeing.
Though it’s longer than your previous comics work, it’s considerably shorter than your novels (and, at two issues, quite short for a miniseries). Is it a challenge to develop a story that fits within this space?
At first it was, yeah. When I was first trying to come up with an idea, I was thinking the same way I did when plotting a novel. I was trying to put too much in. But then I realized a two-part miniseries was more like a short story. After that, it was a lot easier to settle on one single idea.
You’re working with artist Valerio Schiti for this miniseries. What does his style bring to the story you’re telling?
Valerio’s great! He has such a quirky style that really nails the eccentricities of Wren. Plus, his detail work on the buildings and backgrounds is astonishing. And that’s needed for a story set in Sharn, because the city itself is actually like a character in itself.
What did you think about becoming a part of the “Infestation 2” event?
It was a great honor to be asked and I really enjoyed doing it. As a comics fan I can’t wait to read the other miniseries to see how the other writers handled the concept.